Decision to Return Pays Off for Hodge, Hill Adds Individual Title to Team Win

By Steve Vedder
Special for

March 9, 2024

GRAND RAPIDS - Leah Hodge had every reason to believe her gymnastics career was over.

At various times, the Farmington United junior has overcome illness, knee surgery and finally an ankle injury at Saturday's MHSAA Individual Finals at Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills.

Put it all together and Hodge, who didn't compete as a freshman, admits she was content to call it a career prior to this season.

And then came a conversation with longtime friend and eventual teammate Elena Anzivino, who "convinced" her to give high school gymnastics a last shot. How does Hodge recall that conversation?

"She yelled at me," Hodge laughed. "She told me it would be fun and that I should do it. I mean, I'm here."

The friends' tale has a storybook ending as Hodge notched first place in Saturday's Division 1 all-around (38.0). She won bars (9.55) and was runner-up on vault (9.5) while taking fourth on beam (9.425) and sixth in floor (9.525).

Salem's Katie Stewart competes on floor exercise.Instead of focusing on how someone bounces back from myriad of problems, Hodge said the title can best be described in another way.

"Mostly I'm happy for the team," she said. "We took second overall (in Friday's Team Final) and we've come a long way. Every single person has improved."

Hodge said her toughest expected event was vault. But she was topped only by Rockford/Sparta's Leah Koch, who finished first with a 9.525.

"I knew if I did well there, I would have a shot at all-around. But floor was also tough for me because I was so tired," she said.

Another gymnast who overcame a couple of rugged moments was Howell senior Maria Petru, whose falls on the bars and beam ended any hopes of an all-around title. But she bounced back to win floor (9.7). She was fifth at the Finals in all-around a year ago and wound up fourth Saturday.

"It was a rough start," said the four-year letterwinner who will attend Spring Arbor in the fall. "I was excited to win floor, especially since I had been forgetting my routine lately. But I put all I had into it, and it felt good."

Novi's Alisa Shiriashi captured first on beam (9.7) to round out the Division 1 event winners. Shiriashi, who took three years off after ending her club gymnastics career, was making her first appearance at the Finals.

Rockford/Sparta's Hailey Hill also competes on floor on the way to winning the Division 2 all-around title."A couple people convinced me to get back in it, and I'm very happy they did," she said. "They got me back into it, and I've got no regrets about that at all."

Salem senior Katie Stewart finished second in Division 1 all-around at 37.675, and Hartland sophomore Abby Griffen was third at 37.175.

The Division 2 winners were Anna Barczyk of Salem in vault (9.3) and floor (9.45), Aubrey Woodman of Farmington on bars (8.9), Kate Tracey of Rockford on beam (9.4) and Hailey Hill of Rockford in all-around (36.325).

Hill, who also competed all-around as Rockford/Sparta won Friday’s team championship, finished her high school career with her first individual Finals title after placing fourth in Division 2 a year ago.

Barczyk was second in Divison 2 all-around at 35.65, and Escanaba senior Sophia Wagner was third at 35.5.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Farmington United's Leah Hodge focuses while competing at Saturday's Individual Finals. (Middle) Salem's Katie Stewart competes on floor exercise. (Below) Rockford/Sparta's Hailey Hill also competes on floor on the way to winning the Division 2 all-around title. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

Performance of the Week: North Farmington's Leah Hodge

March 14, 2024

Leah Hodge headshotLeah Hodge ♦ North Farmington
Junior ♦ Gymnastics

Hodge, coming off a dominating Division 1 Regional win the week before, finished the season with another memorable weekend helping Farmington United to a runner-up finish at Friday’s Team Final before clinching the Division 1 individual championship Saturday with an all-around score of 38.000.

A gymnast since she was 6 years old, Hodge scored a meet-high 37.950 all-around Friday as Farmington United finished second, just two tenths of a point off the lead, and her Saturday performance included a championship on uneven parallel bars (9.55), runner-up finish on vault (9.50), fourth place on balance beam (9.425) and sixth place on floor exercise (9.525) – despite her injuring an ankle midway through the meet. Farmington United is a cooperative program with athletes from North Farmington and Farmington high schools. 

@mhsaasports 🤸POW: Leah Hodge #gymnastics #individual #champion #letsgo #farmingtonunited #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

@mhsaasports 🤸POW: Leah Hodge #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #simonebiles #sourpatchkids #drake #olives #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

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Past 2023-24 Honorees

March 8: Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Report
March 1:
Rylee Smith, Zeeland West bowling - Report
Feb. 22:
Caleb Lewandowski, Traverse City West skiing - Report
Feb. 15:
Jadin Mix, Onaway basketball - Report
Feb. 8:
Onalee Wallis, Cadillac skiing - Report
Feb. 1:
Abbey DeGraw, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competitive cheer - Report
Jan. 25:
Ewan Todd, Riverview swimming - Report
Jan. 18:
Ashley Weller, Jackson Northwest basketball - Report
Jan. 11:
Michael Baldwin, Saginaw Arthur Hill wrestling - Report
Dec. 15:
Jena Fijolek, Fenton bowling - Report
Dec. 8:
Sophia Wagner, Escanaba gymnastics - Report
Dec. 1:
Isaiah Marshall, Southfield Arts & Technology football - Report
Nov. 24:
Sarah Bradley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate volleyball - Report
Nov. 17:
Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10:
Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27:
Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20:
Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13:
Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5:
Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29:
MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22:
Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15:
Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8:
Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1:
Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report

PHOTO Farmington United's Leah Hodge competes during the floor exercise Saturday at Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)